Budget Radar Detectors

Updated August 31, 2013
In this report
Beltronics Vector 955
Best Reviewed

Best cheap radar detector

Beltronics Vector 955

Best radar detectors for about $200

Cheap radar detectors that cost less than about $200 never work as well as better models, reviewers say. Those that cost less than $150 get the worst ratings. "Save your money," professional reviewer Roy Reyer says bluntly. "During my 10-year career in the speed countermeasure industry, I have NEVER found a radar detector costing less than $150 that I would keep on my own dash!"

But Reyer does recommend the Beltronics Vector 955 (Est. $205) as a best buy among cheap radar detectors. So does Craig Peterson at RadarTest.com, where the Vector 955 beats budget-radar detectors from Whistler and Cobra in a thorough test on both city streets and highways.

"In balanced, all-around performance, the Beltronics (BEL) Vector 955 is still the standard-bearer for this class," Peterson says. Owners say the Vector 955 still dishes up plenty of false alarms and not much advance warning of a real radar threat -- but that's a common complaint with all cheap radar detectors. Owners at Amazon.com report the same problems with the slightly cheaper Beltronics Vector 940 , but it's a favorite among them anyway, thanks to its low price.

Alternatives to radar detectors don't work very well

Besides radar detectors and laser jammers, there are other devices on the market aimed at avoiding speeding tickets. However, experts do not recommend any of the following products.

Passive radar jammers receive incoming radar signals, scramble them and send them back to the radar gun without amplification, blanking out police radar for about 12 to 15 seconds. That's the theory, anyhow. In practice, however, experts unanimously agree that passive radar jammers simply don't work.

An active radar jammer continually scans for police radar; once it detects a signal, it returns a low-power, variable signal that effectively "blanks" the police radar. A good active radar jammer will jam the signal either totally or until you get very close to the source of the signal. That's the good news. The bad news is that jamming or attempting to jam a police radar gun is a federal felony punishable by a $10,000 fine and/or one to two years in jail.

Anti-photo license-plate covers or anti-photo sprays are intended to work against photo radar, which takes a picture of your license plate as you drive by. These are illegal in some states and provinces -- and they don't even work, an elaborate test at RadarTest.com shows. Testers set up photo radar and red-light cameras at true-to-life angles, and they also sped through a couple of real-world cameras for good measure. None of the seven plate covers, nor the photo spray, managed to block their license plate numbers: "The proof arrived in the mail a few weeks later."